Pancreatic β-cells are exquisitely sensitive to developmental nutrient stressors, and alterations in nutrient sensing pathways may underlie changes observed in these models. Here we developed a mouse model of in utero exposure to the anti-diabetic agent metformin. We have previously shown that this exposure increases offspring pancreatic β-cell mass at birth. We hypothesized that adult offspring would have improved metabolic parameters as a long-term outcome of metformin exposure. Virgin dams were given 5 mg/mL metformin in their water from E0.5 to delivery at E18.5. Body weight, glucose tolerance, insulin tolerance and glucose stimulated insulin secretion were analyzed in the offspring. When male offspring of dams given metformin during gestation were tested as adults they had improved glucose tolerance and enhanced insulin secretion in vivo as did their islets in vitro. Enhanced insulin secretion was accompanied by changes in intracellular free calcium responses to glucose and potassium chloride, possibly mediated by increased L channel expression. Female offspring exhibited improved glucose tolerance at advanced ages. In conclusion, in this model in utero metformin exposure leads to improved offspring metabolism in a gender-specific manner. These findings suggest that metformin applied during gestation may be an option for reprogramming metabolism in at risk groups.
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